Half a million dollars is quite a start.

Boulder Valley startups for many years have helped drive the local, regional and national economies. Now, the innovation and entrepreneurship that helped those companies grow has reached the nonprofit sector.

The Entrepreneurs Foundation was organized in 2007 to promote philanthropy among entrepreneurs, investors and startups, Boulder County Business Report staff writer Michael Davidson notes in this edition. The idea is for startups to pledge 1 percent of profits or 1 percent of early-stage equity to the foundation.

The foundation recently made its first grants, including $400,000 to the Community Foundation Serving Boulder and Broomfield Counties and $30,000 to the Rose Community Foundation. The grants originated from contributions by the Foundry Group, a Boulder-based venture-capital firm; the TechStars accelerator and Jive Software Inc. Total grants now exceed $500,000.

Local venture capitalists such as Brad Feld and Seth Levine helped launch the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado, bringing an innovative approach to securing funds for nonprofits. The foundation provides a meaningful — but relatively painless — way for entrepreneurs to pledge support for nonprofits, even before they know whether their companies will generate profits or prove sustainable.

By pledging a modest 1 percent of profit or 1 percent of early-stage equity, entrepreneurs can generate enormous sums for charitable causes. Ryan Martens, chief technology officer at Boulder-based Rally Software Corp., told us that the foundation could pass on as much as $2 million within the next two years.

That would be a huge boost to nonprofits that have struggled in recent years, and reflects yet another demonstration of Boulder Valley innovation.